2015 Wadden Sea Day marks the 25th anniversary of the Wadden Sea Seals Agreement

2015 Wadden Sea Day marks the 25th anniversary of the Wadden Sea Seals Agreement

The 10th Wadden Sea Day, held on 27 August 2015 in Wilhelmshaven, was dedicated to marine mammals in the Wadden Sea World Heritage. More than 80 scientists, managers, policy makers and other Wadden Sea stakeholders participated in the event to discuss challenges and prospects for the future of these top predators of the Wadden Sea ecosystem. The Wadden Sea Seal populations (mainly harbour seals but increasingly also grey seals) have shown steady growth rates in recent years. The number of animals has reached record values over the last couple of years, despite the major epizootics of 1988 and 2002.

The theme of this year’s Wadden Sea Day was chosen to mark the 25th anniversary of the Wadden Sea Seals Agreement (WSSA). Concluded between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands in Bonn, Germany on 16 October 1990, the WSSA was the first regional agreement developed under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS). Since its inception, secretariat services for the WSSA have been provided by the CWSS, which also coordinates the Trilateral Seal Expert Group (TSEG).

Opening the one-day conference, Peter Südbeck, the Head of the Wadden Sea National Park Administration in Lower Saxony, acknowledged the successful cooperation on the protection of seals in the trilateral context. He noted that the National Park was an important part of this cooperation, among other things as it enforced the measures for seal protection in the Wadden Sea World Heritage in Lower Saxony. Representing the current Presidency of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (TWSC), Bernard Baerends from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs underscored the prominent role of seal management in the Netherlands and the importance of effective implementation of the Seal Management Plan (SMP) adopted under the WSSA. In his keynote address the Executive Secretary of CMS, Bradnee Chambers, explained the role of the WSSA in the context of CMS and described the agreement as a major success and a “shining example of international cooperation in the sector of nature protection”.

                       Opening address by Peter Südbeck

Peter Reijnders (IMARES, Netherlands), Jonas Teilmann (University of Aarhus, Denmark), Camille de la Vega (Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany), David Thompson (University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom), delivered presentations dedicated to population developments, research, monitoring and management activities around grey and harbour seals in the Wadden Sea. Looking at the third key marine mammal species in the Wadden Sea, Ursula Siebert (University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany), provided insights on the status of harbour porpoises in the region. Diana Giebels (Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands) presented research concerning the development of an evaluation scheme for the implementation of the current Seal Management Plan. 

                       Bradnee Chambers, Peter Südbeck, Ursula Siebert and Rüdiger Strempel (from left)

This year’s Wadden Sea Day was also attended by a delegation from Gochang County, Republic of Korea, who visited Wilhelmshaven in the context of cooperation between the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (TWSC) and the Republic of Korea. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the TWSC and Korea was concluded in 2009. In his congratulatory address, Mr. Young-Sub Lim, the head of the Korean delegation highlighted the relevance of cooperation between Korea and the Wadden Sea and expressed his hope of being able to initiate a partnership concerning the protection of tidal flats in his region. Mr Lim also presented the Secretary of CWSS, Rüdiger Strempel, and Peter Südbeck with photographs of the tidal flats in Gochang county.

In his final statement, Rüdiger Strempel, noted that the WSSA was a success story that also testified to the benefits to be derived from cooperation between various international entities. He added that while cooperation in the framework of the WSSA had yielded remarkable success, further work lay ahead as marine mammals in the Wadden Sea region continued to face challenges, including emerging new challenges. He expressed the hope that this would inspire those involved to build on the success of the past and continue to join efforts to realize their common goal of achieving and maintaining a favourable conservation status for seals in the Wadden Sea region.

The Wadden Sea day is an annual event, traditionally co-organized by the National Park Administration Wadden Sea Lower Saxony and the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat.